AdvancEd External Review Summary Conclusions
FROM: Report of the External Review Team for Resolution Ranch (2015)
The school’s program is designed to address the need for behavior modification that results from discipline problems, lack of respect for authority or the law, poor academic achievement, family dysfunction, substance abuse or life-controlling issues, self-mutilation, violent tendencies, and depression. The institution’s location provides a remote setting and utilizes peer groups to help the residents strengthen their commitment to recovery. Each student’s program is tailored to his particular troubles and life circumstances. The school has developed a unique RANCH (Recovery and Academics through Nature, Counseling and Healing) experience that requires students to progress through five levels of behavior modification that emphasize accountability, introspection, and rational self-evaluation.
The Chief Executive Officer and President is generally on-site and closely interacts with the leadership team, which consists of the Administrator, the Academic Director, and the Program Director. The Program Director supervises the Direct Care Coordinator, Direct Care staff, and all therapeutic staff. The Academic Director supervises full and part-time faculty. The entire staff meets weekly for training and to discuss strategies and best practices regarding the residents. The CEO has an advisory board consisting of professionals from business, psychology, and law.
The program includes onsite therapists and counselors and a small (generally six-to-one) ratio of Direct Care staff for each resident. Residents generally stay at the school for several months, during which time the school engages both the residents and their families in extensive counseling. Many residents arrive with academic deficiencies, so the program utilizes individualized, online instruction with several teachers and Direct Care staff present at all times. A notable component of the RANCH experience is equine program, which utilizes the principles of EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association), an equine therapy that utilizes the emotional intelligence of horses to encourage honesty in the residents and the development of a series of horsemanship skills that build each resident’s confidence. Resolution Ranch uses the PLATO online curriculum as the foundation for instruction. PLATO is standards-based and includes formative, ongoing, and summative assessments that include several reading measures and which also indicate mastery of target knowledge and skills.
Upon arrival, residents complete initial reading, language arts, and math assessments. Based on these assessments and the student’s academic record, the student’s academic plan is developed, approved by his parents, and then students are assigned coursework on PLATO. Students complete one accelerated course at a time while they are at Resolution Ranch to assist them in credit recovery and to build successful study habits and patterns. The residents have two blocks of technology-based instruction during the day. Other blocks of time are devoted to hands-on learning activities and development of life skills as well as to group and individual therapy times.
Teachers provide additional instructional materials and strategies for skill development and for extending and enriching the instructional program. During classroom observations, the External Review Team saw a customized program designed to meet the needs of the students enrolled at the school. All residents were in the classroom building working on individualized, technology-based modules. Additional materials were available as needed. Three teachers were present with the group of approximately 35 students, as were several Direct Care providers. All staff routinely interacted with students to ensure their engagement and understanding.
Residents participate in daily maintenance of the facility. A cook prepares wholesome, balanced meals from fresh ingredients. The facility is secured by automatically locking doors and a badge system, and is disciplined and orderly but not oppressive. The entire program is designed around mutual interdependence, respectful communication, and high standards of accountability and responsibility.
The school’s leadership openly and transparently engages the challenges that are presented by the school’s mission and purpose. To meet the therapeutic needs of the residents, the school’s staff has been expanded to add additional therapists and counselors, and a case manager. The school operates year round, 24 hours a day, and is in a remote location, so finding and retaining qualified staff is always a challenge.
Many residents arrive at the school with academic deficiencies, so the leadership has increased the number of teaching staff and has redrawn the organizational chart to create an Academic Director. The school is adding an additional teacher with special education certification who will bring additional expertise to the development
of each resident’s academic plan.
The school’s unique purpose and individually tailored academic program precludes traditional whole school academic assessments, so academic growth is measured individually. Still, the school recognizes the need to track its students’ success after graduating from the program. Many mitigating factors may be found in the students’ home and school environments, making it difficult to identify the variables that may enhance or hinder student success after leaving the program. Still, the leadership recognizes the need to gather data after students leave to use as a benchmark to guide continual program development for student success.
The school leadership and staff meet weekly, and short-term and long term goals for program development, staff development, and student success are identified and known by staff. The leadership recognizes the need to bring its goals and strategies into an organized School Improvement Plan that addresses the common goals of all of the institution’s programs that are designed for student success academically and behaviorally.
The school also has committed resources to a new technology infrastructure and service provider that can meet its bandwidth needs given the school’s rural location. The school also has acquired a new technology based student tracking system to centralized and improve its documentation and communication regarding student progress and coordination of student’s individualized program needs.
The External Review Team found Resolution Ranch to be characterized by leadership and staff who are strongly committed to student success and to building and maintaining a unified, collaborative culture in which each student is known and cared for by all staff members. All personnel are committed to maintaining a safe and effective environment, to communicating respectfully and positively, and to enforcing policies and disciplinary practices consistently, and fairly.
See the full report HERE.